CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Season 6 Part 1 Review
I'm finding that the current season of CSI has been gifted something never before seen amongst the glut of blood, shell casings and mass spectrometry of previous seasons. And that's comedy. A good deal of that has to do with the ridiculous manner with which this season ended, a cosy little scene in which - spoilers be damned! - Grissom and Sara wound down from the solving of their latest case by sharing a bed and wandering through an apartment in their dressing gowns. The implication was clear, that in their sometimes desperate search to leverage some personality into the CSI characters, the producers had decided that Grissom and Sara must be having an affair. Given that the relationship between the two was, up to that point, similar to one between a socially backward biology teacher and his star, but cripplingly shy, pupil, it made for ridiculous viewing, which can't be what the producers intended.
Actually, there are moments of comedy in the first episode of this season, none of which are, one feels, intentional. The CSI team appear onscreen wandering towards the screen in slow motion. Catherine Willows gazes out to one side of the screen and Grissom adopts a brusque, business-like attitude. Were it not for the absence of blue fur, a green creature with one huge eye and a weird shape-changing lizard, it might well have been Monsters, Inc! Or Armageddon! Odd how it seems to require all six CSI officers (and Brass) to cover the blowing up of a home in a trailer park.
But things get odder still when Catherine and Warwick leave to investigate the murder of a prostitute and, whilst the body cools, he mentions that he got married the day before. The look on her face - going for shock but with a top lip that is slightly inflated on one side due to some suspect plastic surgery - prompts the viewer to think back to three or four seasons ago when Warwick and Catherine looked deep into one another's eyes over a laptop running a fingerprint scan. But nothing happened then and nothing happens now, only that Catherine has something else to look miserable about, other than the aging process and the lack of promotional opportunities with Grissom still about. Indeed, she says as much later, explaining that it was the fantasy of being with Warwick that was great. When you lose that fantasy, she tells him, "...it just kinda sucks!" Heavens, that's the kind of thing that a thirteen-year-old girl might get upset about, not a fiftysomething ex-stripper who works in a crime lab. And that's not even the few mentions of Nick's kidnapping in the Quentin Tarantino-directed Grave Danger at the end of the previous season - "How're you doing, Nick?" "Above ground, Wilcox!" - and his flapping at a bug as it crawls up his arm.
But it is Nick who offers the viewer a glimpse of the measures taken by these actors to give their characters some depth. Many are the tales told by actors of their early days on television and in film in which they pleaded with directors to add to their meagre screen time with the chance of making their moments on the screen more memorable. The begging to be permitted to give their character a limp, a Spanish accent, greying hair, a outsized pair of trousers, a pair of spectacles or a hankering for knickers is surely loudest amongst those who feel destined for greater things. Doubtless searching the cupboard for a character and finding it bare, George Eads grows a moustache. Which probably says everything that one needs to know about the producer's disinterest in Nick. Never mind that they could have done much, much more with his being buried alive, Nick's most memorable moment in this entire season is his growing of a cookie duster. Said moustache is shaved after a few episodes, suggesting that even George Eads gave up on it eventually.
Elsewhere, the producers waste the return of Lady Heather later in the season, the tension between Grissom and Catherine over a position in management gets an occasional mention but is otherwise quickly forgotten about and Greg Sanders, who once promised much, bumbles about in the background. And then I compare it to CSI: New York, which currently plays on Saturday night, and find the original show so lacking. Danny Messer's, "Y'alright?" to Lindsay Monroe offers much more characterisation than this entire half-season. This season is, as CSI has always been, simply about the cases. What is unfortunate about late-period CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is that it's no longer even getting the pick of CSI storylines as the rather dull stories in this half-season set make clear as these twelve, expanded upon below, amply demonstrate.
Bodies in Motion (41m26s): Arriving at an explosion in a trailer park, Grissom and the rest of the team find two bodies in what's left of the building, leaving Sara and Nick when he gets called away elsewhere. In another part of town, not much further up the social ladder, Warwick and Catherine discover the body of a murdered prostitute wearing Wellington boots whilst Grissom finds two bodies decomposing in the boot of a stolen car. A car condom proves useful in bringing the vehicle in for analysis.
Room Service (41m55s): Two worlds collide to the sound of Gary Jules' version of Mad World and within a split screen when an up and coming movie star is killed on the same night as a taxi driver waiting outside a hotel. Upstairs, Julian Harper enjoys the company of his entourage before they leave him alone with a young woman for the night. Two hours later, she's downstairs browsing the mall whilst he lies dead in his suite. On the street outside and in the basement of the hotel, the southeast Asian workers are fighting amongst themselves. Murder is the case upstairs and down.
Bite Me (42m14s): After the paramedics record the time of death, the CSI team are called into the home of a wealthy young couple, finding an atypical marriage behind the solid oak door. What they find is a man covered in blood whilst his wife lies dead at the bottom of the stairs, the blood still flowing from the head wound she'd sustained. But what they discover is blackmail, adultery, a fear of losing their jobs and an peculiar fetish, that of biting and being bitten.
Shooting Stars (42m15s): A break in at a suburban home looks like a simple search for food by a handful of starving kids but when the owner follows them outside, he trips over a body that's been dumped in his garden. Calling in CSI, the trail of footprints leads to a military compound, which appears to be where a mass suicide cult took their final ride into the stars. But there are twelve beds and only eleven bodies. Grissom wonders if the body on the lawn is the missing one or might the murderer have skipped the promised ride through the heavens.
Gum Drops (42m46s): Nick arrives at a deserted house but though there's a lot of dried blood pooled throughout, there are no bodies. The kitchen and living rooms have been ransacked, someone has rifled through the garage and the family's belongings are scattered on the stairs. Everyone suspects that the entire family has been murdered but cannot prove it until they find the bodies. But with Nick believing that they might still be alive, he works against the clock to find them, saving them if he can.
Secrets And Flies (42m14s): Brass arrives at the home of twenty-eight-year old Christian Adalian when there's no answer, breaking in to find her dead and her young child in a playpen nearby. It looks like suicide - or it's made to look like Adalian fired a bullet into her own head - but the CSI team find no proof of it. But the autopsy shows up something even more peculiar, that mother-of-one Adalian was a virgin and her child has no biological connection to Adalian. If they can find the child's father and mother, perhaps they can find the killer.
A Bullet Runs Through It (39m12s, 41m55s): Sofia and Brass are involved in a police chase through the streets of Las Vegas, pursuing an armed drugs gang. Ending when the gang's car rolls, the chase becomes a shootout between the cops and the dealers. But when their cartridges empty, they start running through the streets with Brass and the cops taking them in. Dead or alive, it doesn't matter. When the gun smoke clears, though, there's a dead cop and a crime scene that stretches for miles but with all the bullets that were flying, Grissom isn't sure that the one that killed the policeman might have been friendly fire. With Detective Ortega of Internal Affairs taking a close interest in the case, they have little time and no margin for error.
Dog Eat Dog (40m19s): The life of a meal from kitchen to table is followed to its end, being tipped out with the rubbish onto a body tossed into a dumpster. Grissom and Brass are soon on the scene but when the contents of the body are listed, they find a lot of hot dogs. Too many hot dogs for one man, leading Catherine and Grissom into the world of competitive eating. Meanwhile, Nick and Sara investigate the death of a couple in their own home but they can't quite believe it when the main suspect would appear to be their dog, Cujo.
Still Life (41m26s): When a woman reports her six-year-old daughter missing from a public park, the CSI team arrive alongside Brass to investigate a possible kidnapping. But what's lacking is evidence and things look even more suspicious when the child turns up with a couple that he claims to be his parents. What happened to the woman's child is the mystery now facing CSI. Might there have been a child at all? And if there was, where is it now?
Werewolves (42m14s): When an anonymous 911 call is made claiming that there is a body lying within a deserted house, Brass brings the CSI team out alongside him. What they find is the body of a man with Hypertrichosis, a disease that leaves the victim covered in thick, coarse hair, like a werewolf it would seem. But the more the CSI team investigate, the more they learn about the victim's family, how prevalent Hypertrichosis is in it and how a secret lies in his background.
Daddy's Little Girl (42m14s): As Grissom advises his team, a threesome is often one too many and when the body of a man is found in his garage with a fatal stab wound to his pelvis, Grissom believes if his girlfriend might be the killer, murdering the victim after discovering him having an affair. But when these two women comfort one another at the crime scene, this threesome has a surprise for Grissom. Meanwhile, Catherine investigates the death of a woman involved in a hit-and-run...against the wall in a basement car park.
The standard of the show's production has gotten better over the years but the DVD presentation is no better or worse now since its first appearance on disc. Anamorphically presented in its original 1.78:1 off a high-definition master, this fifth season of CSI looks very good indeed with rich colours, an impressive amount of detail and a decent handling of the frequent switch between the bright sun of the desert to the darkness of the CSI labs without any problems. However, being of a standard with the earlier releases, this isn't anything than you won't, should you already own a CSI set, have seen before.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVDs is a clear improvement over the NICAM stereo of the broadcast versions with infrequent use of the rear channels and subwoofer, typically for ambient effects and the score. It is, though, a complementary audio track and whilst one never notices anything standing out, as such, there are also no obvious faults with it. All of these episodes feature English subtitles.
Commentaries: There are five talk tracks spread across these three discs - Danny Cannon (Shooting Stars), Sarah Goldfinger and Richard J Lewis (Gum Drops), Carol Mendelsohn and Richard Catalani or Danny Cannon (A Bullet Runs Through It, Part 1), Carol Mendelsohn and Kenneth Fink (A Bullet Runs Through It, Part 2) - and they are very typical of CSI commentaries to date. What we have then are the directors, writers and producers mixing bits and bobs of the current affairs that inspired the story, the background of the case in real-life police files, some technical chatter and more talk about CG than one could ever really ask for. None of them are really that interest but Danny Cannon, who is more responsible that most for the look of the show and who seems to care a good deal less for the actual crime-solving aspect of the show, offers the best tracks in the set. Unfortunately, Anthony Zuiker, who does tend to offer the best CSI commentaries has not contributed to this set.
New Title Sequence (5m40s): For years, the title sequence of CSI has played host to the bloodiest sequence on television. No, not the bullet passing through the apple but the bald dummy having what appears to be a pickaxe going through the back of its head. Each season has added a little to the title sequence and taken a bit more away and this very short feature looks at how it's changed over the years and how it has come to how it looks now. Most interesting in here is a what-it-could-have-been look at rejected title sequences. Much less interesting is what actually ended up on the screen, which is a mix of effects shots from previous seasons, the CG staples of the sequence and footage of the actors looking grim.
CSI: The Science Of Sound (26m43s): Six seasons in and you get the feeling that the producers of these boxsets are struggling at finding original bonus material. I expect that part one of the seventh season box set will offer us Driving Gil Grissom, a half-hour feature on those responsible for making sure that William Petersen arrives on set in the morning. This longer-than-expected feature looks at the job of the sound editors on CSI, which is surely not a dull job but they manage to make it sound so here, explaining the sounds of CSI with none of the enthusiasm that you find with Ben Burtt's talking about his role on Star Wars.